ERCIM News No.33 - April 1998

HIPOKT - Multimedia Courseware in Education

by Tibor Remzsö and Miklós Biró

The main goal of the HIPOKT project which started in January 1997 at SZTAKI, is to develop an appropriate multimedia-based authoring environ-ment for a special industrial partner, a nuclear power plant, and to build-up the course materials for the trainers and trainees. The working modes of the training materials are study room lectures (based on a client-server LAN), home learnings (based on MPC machines and CD-ROM) and Internet-based trainings. The project is partially supported by the Hungarian National Committee for Technological Development (OMFB). Some of the developed methods and templates are used in ARCHIMED, an INCO-COPERNICUS project supported by the European Commission.

Multimedia for teaching purposes includes sequences of still or moving digitized video images, analogue video, (provided via laser disc), computer-generated graphics, computer-generated animations, digitized sound, and computer-generated text. In our educational multimedia projects, the term we use for all multimedia-based teaching materials is courseware. Multimedia courseware in education also requires connectivity through various network topologies which support the storage and rapid transmission of inherently large multimedia data files from file servers to student workstations.

In the educational domain, a primary consideration of the educational developers in designing multimedia for academic teaching is to take into account the constraints of storing and networking large multimedia files over the existing campus networks or the Internet. Furthermore, the question of using large amounts of digitized motion video and sound clips in educational courseware has to be decided on the basis of the quality of the replay on the student delivery workstations and it has to take into account the constraints of bandwidth and performance on a LAN for delivering such files simultaneously to more than one student's workstation. In the HIPOKT project, we had to face the same problems in designing courseware for our industrial partner. Moreover, some further constraints have arisen because of the special applications.

Courseware Production

Multimedia in education attempts to effect efficient interactivity for learning. Multimedia courseware must be shown to be both educationally and cost effective. There is a large variety of possible hardware configurations for developing multimedia courseware in education. In HIPOKT we use the high-end PC technology. On the visual side at present single frame JPEG compressed digitized video is used mostly, apart from short clips of MPEG1 or MPEG2 compressed digitized motion video. These video clips are displayed by a simple player software for Windows. This technique was chosen due to the constraints in delivering large amounts of digitized motion video and sound to students' workstations via networks, where such files are not available locally via CD ROMs.

Authoring Tools in HIPOKT

In the discussion of authoring tools, terminology needs to be defined. The first level of this is to define the style of authoring. The style is the basic metaphor that an author works with when he/she uses the system. There are two main styles: the command style and the object style. These styles are valid for both graphical and text-based systems, they refer to the underlying organisation of the authoring tool. Many authoring systems use both kinds of styles, often in different places or at different levels. Our developing environment allows working with mixed style. In the HIPOKT project we are working with the Asymetrix ToolBook toolset. In ToolBook we can create books that combine text, graphics, color, animation and even sound. We can manage information, perform calculations, and interact with other computer programs. With ToolBook we can produce information to share with others. Any ToolBook user can read the books produced.

Authoring Courseware in HIPOKT

Authoring tools should be as simple as possible to use and resemble standard applications as much as possible. The use of templates and superplates is advised. In order to avoid academic people to be involved in the design of the presentation rather than in the design of the instruction, templates should have predefined screen designs. In the HIPOKT project, in designing such templates we had a support team from external sources.

Future Areas of Development

The delivery of digitized video is now gaining critical mass in education due to the falling cost and the increase in the specification of entry level student PCs for courseware delivery in multimedia teaching laboratories. The inclusion of MPEG video replay chips on PC motherboards will mean that entry-level multimedia PCs will be configured for full screen 30 frame/s digitized video replay without the addition of specific cards or support for videodisc. It is difficult at this time to forecast which products will become the new 'standard' in terms of price and performance in relation to the needs of education. The growth of Internet networking resources is rapid and extensive. The chief areas of technical development are in the design and implementation of tools for learners to easily locate and access remote client server multimedia databases comprising interactive documents for instructions. The technical development of tools like these are necessary to support learners and other users in utilising resources via the Internet or via local cached collections.

Please contact:

Tibor Remzsö - SZTAKI
Tel: +36 1 209 5270

Miklós Biró - SZTAKI
Tel: +36 1 209 5270

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